Nothing speaks to the political class like a poll and we got a doozy yesterday.
Public Policy Polling, a national automated pollster with a pretty good record for accuracy even as its private clients lean Democratic, produced one from Arkansas. It put Attorney General Dustin McDaniel in what might be interpreted as something of a sex-induced free fall in his race, previously and presumptively front-running on the Democratic side, for governor.
It put McDaniel’s positive-to-negative at a toxic 25-40. It found that Republican Asa Hutchinson, on national TV with CNN’s Piers Morgan last night arguing for guns in a way that couldn’t possibly hurt him in rural Arkansas, leads McDaniel head-to-head by 46-33.
Back before his sex slip-up became public, McDaniel leaked his own poll showing him trailing Hutchinson only 44-41. If you wanted, you could believe McDaniel’s own poll and then pair it with this Public Policy finding and declare that his confessed inappropriateness had cost him 10 fast points.
This is all somewhat huge. It matters much whether the Democrats can stop their in-state hemorrhaging in 2014 and hold on to the governorship. McDaniel was the heir apparent, the Beebe Junior, who had raised more than a million bucks in a relatively short time.
Now he is getting drubbed by a guy, Hutchinson, who suddenly is everywhere, both on national TV and strolling the state Capitol corridors on Monday.
If not McDaniel for the Democrats, then who? Bill Halter is the logical next-in-line, but I deem him unpopular within the party and remotely electable in the general election. John Burkhalter, the Jacksonville business tycoon and state highway commissioner whom no one knows but who might self-fund, went to the Gillett coon supper the other night and told people he’s definitely in on the Democratic side.
That’s it for the moment. It is a nonexistent farm team.
The emerging conventional wisdom is that 2014 will be the most decisive governor’s race in Arkansas since 1966, when Win Rockefeller bested Justice Jim Johnson and began an era of progress and took the teeth out of segregationist politics.
So it has Democrats in distress to see their seemingly best hope in a polling freefall.
And what happens if time starts to heal these wounds for McDaniel and then these supposed text messages with his partner in inappropriateness, now in the possession of authorities because the woman is peripherally and innocently a potential witnesss in a criminal investigation, become public?
Sometimes I’m too inclined to live in fast-forward. So maybe I shouldn’t be reconciling myself already to Governor Asa and to the dawn of a new era in Arkansas — of Oklahoma-ism.